Gurmat Spirituality is Practical and Universal

The Enlightening Message of the Gurbani in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is oriented to liberation (Mukti) from all kinds of  superstitions, rituals, baser instincts like prejudice, racism, envy, ignorance, vices/Bikaar etc. In other words, the Spiritual Message of the Guru’s Shabad is Universal, humanistic and elevating – applicable to the entire humanity in the whole world (‘Saajhee Sagal Jahaanai-ਸਾਝੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਹਾਨੈ’).

  • ਪਰਥਾਇ ਸਾਖੀ ਮਹਾ ਪੁਰਖ ਬੋਲਦੇ ਸਾਝੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਹਾਨੈ ॥ : The Great Men may be speaking about or addressing certain story or a particular situation, but the Teaching in those is applicable to the entire world. (sggs 647).

In short, the Unique Message of the Gurbani in SGGS is NEVER specific to location, occasion, person, incident or era (i.e. it’s not time-bound). Therefore, it is relevant in all times, all locations, and the entire humanity in the world. In short, the Message of the Gurbani is Universal and egalitarian. 

However, most of us are spiritually asleep for we lack full grasp of the philosophical Message being preached by the SGGS. One reason for this could be that different social groups converted to teachings of the Gurus and became Sikhs for different reasons – reason other than understanding the full import of the Message of the Gurus.

The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS spiritually Awakens our conditioned Conscience if it is imbibed and practiced. The Gurbani (SGGS) teaches practical life lessons how to live life in family, society and the world. There is no pretense (Pakhand) here.

In short, spirituality of the Gurmat or SGGS is to become Awaken and Aware from within, and become filled with ONENESS Here and Now. It provides Guidance to live life purposefully, peacefully, successfully, Universal brotherhood and with complete Awareness (‘Saabat Soorat):

  • Since the One Creator resides within His Creation, spirituality must coexist with humanity — harmony with existence.
  • Since the Creator resides within me, He has to be Realized within me.
  • Since the Creator resides within His Creation, ALL of the Creation must be treated humanely, with love and respect.

In other words, Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS teaches us spiritual Consciousness which connects us to not only our world but the entire Universe. In this context, consider a few verses:

  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਖਾਲਕੁ ਖਲਕ ਮਹਿ ਖਲਕ ਵਸੈ ਰਬ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਮੰਦਾ ਕਿਸ ਨੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਈ ਨਾਹਿ ॥੭੫॥ : Fareed, the Creator (Universal Energy…) is in His Creation, and the Creation is in the Creator (i..e the Creator is Realized within His Creation). What of Creation can I deem bad when there is none without Him within. ॥75॥ (sggs 1381).
  • ਕਾਹੇ ਰੇ ਬਨ ਖੋਜਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਸਰਬ ਨਿਵਾਸੀ ਸਦਾ ਅਲੇਪਾ ਤੋਹੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਸਮਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਪੁਹਪ ਮਧਿ ਜਿਉ ਬਾਸੁ ਬਸਤੁ ਹੈ ਮੁਕਰ ਮਾਹਿ ਜੈਸੇ ਛਾਈ ॥ ਤੈਸੇ ਹੀ ਹਰਿ ਬਸੇ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਖੋਜਹੁ ਭਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਨਹੁ ਇਹੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਬਤਾਈ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਆਪਾ ਚੀਨੈ ਮਿਟੈ ਨ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਕੀ ਕਾਈ ॥੨॥੧॥ : (O mind!) Why search the Creator outside in the forest? (The Creator) who is omnipresent but always detached (from the influence of Maya), is always Within you. ||1||Pause|| Just as fragrance resides in a flower and reflection in the mirror, similarly the Creator resides within all; O brothers, search Him Within. ||1|| The Guru has imparted this understanding — realize the presence of the same One Creator both within you and outside in everything. ‘Jan’ Nanak says, without KNOWING one’s ownself, the moss of doubt from the mind does not go away. ||2||1|| (sggs 684).

To the contrary, the stale pre-1469 spirituality of the self-serving Pujaaree (clergy: Granthis, Parcharaks, Ragis, Dhadees etc.) and the freeloading Deraa-Vaad Baabaas (ਵੇਹਲੜ) is of Afterlife or after physical death. However:

  • The Unique spirituality of Gurbani or Sikhi is a spirituality of the HERE and NOW, not afterlife or after death,
  • Since spirituality of Gurbani or Sikhi is a spirituality of the HERE and NOW, it is not the spirituality of the past or the future,
  • The spirituality of the Gurbani in SGGS is of the SELF, for the SELF, by the SELF. Hence there is NO concept of transfer of blessings in the spirituality of the Gurbani.
  • The spirituality of the Gurbani is meant for the WHOLE of humanity throughout time – Sarab Saanjhee (ਸਰਬ ਸਾਂਝੀ ਬਾਣੀ).
  • Gurbani is never specific to any location, occasion, person, incident or era – Sarab Saanjhee.
  • Gurbani is composed for use by the Whole of humanity in all locations, all occasions, all persons or all eras – Sarab Saanjhee.
  • Gurbani and its spirituality is NOT confined by the walls of dogmas, phony formalities, structured rituals (Karamkaand), antagonistic adherents, Pakhand, religious paraphernalia, religious robes, pilgrimage obligation (Tirath locations), ritual bathing etc. The Unique and Revolutionary spirituality of the Shabad (SGGS) has CRITIQUED and DEBUNKED ALL this nonsense of the self-serving Pujaaree.

Thus strikingly Unique and Revolutionary, spirituality of Baabaa Nanak or the SGGS is a Universal Guide of practical and commonsense spirituality. It sheds Light on every aspect of human life in a practical and logical way. That is, one can see definite results and benefits in life, Here and Now — one does not have to wait until Afterlife or after death!

  • ਮਾਰਿਆ ਸਿੱਕਾ ਜਗਤ ਵਿਚ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਪੰਥ ਚਲਾਯਾ ॥ : In the world of spirituality, the PANTH (Way of Sikhi) Guru Nanak has its trademark in its Uniqueness (‘Nirmal’ = unique, free of adulteration, or free of contamination by existing/unenlightened religious beliefs). (Bhai Gurdas Ji).

Therefore – by BECOMING THE GURBANI (SGGS) – Gurmat’s spirituality is about applying the Gurmat or spiritual Message of the Shabad to our daily lives and stop pretending to be something different than we are. It’s about how one can experience more upliftment, Joy, Peace of mind, gratitude, divinity in everyday thoughts and actions, leading a healthier or balanced life, and being of service to fellow humans through self-discovery (Who-am-I?) and positive growth. It also involves transformation of the self, man-made religions (Mazhab-ਮਜ਼ਹਬ) and their corrupt clergy, politics, leaders, and society.

Clearly genuine spirituality is not merely going to a Gurdwara once a week (or any other so called religious location) for an hour or so on Sundays, and leave spirituality behind until next visit!

Therefore as envisaged by the Gurbani, SIKHI WAY OF LIFE IS NOT A PART-TIME JOB!

To say it otherwise, the Way of Sikhi is in constant learning of the Message of the Shabad and living it ’24/7′ — an Enlightened or Divine Life of Divine Wisdom / Virtues (Gurmukh Mindset).

  • ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥: The SHABAD is my GURU, and my consciousness (Surat) is the disciple (of this SHABAD GURU). (sggs 943).
  • ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਦਰੀ ਕਰਮਿ ਲਘਾਏ ਪਾਰਿ ॥ : Sikhi is contemplation on Guru’s teaching (Instructions, Wisdom, Counsel, Guide, Upadesh, Giyan, Bibek) and acting on it. Being blessed by the Grace of the Guru’s teaching one then crosses the ocean of worldly temptations and their corrupting influences (Bhav Saagar). (sggs 465).

In fact, according to the Gurbani, the only way to serve the Guru or Satiguru is through the ShabadShabad Vichaar or churning the Gurbani!

Apty, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS asserts anybody devoid of the Shabad (Upadesh, Wisdom…) is as dead!

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: (Those beings) who have not served the ‘Satiguru‘ (through the Shabad-Vichaar), no Wisdom has Awakened within them, (they may appear as alive but they) are as dead in the world (spiritually dead-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ). (sggs 88).

The Gurbani asserts Wisdom clears out the troubled and wandering mind, making it stable — still, intuitively balanced, peaceful, free of Sootak, deeply connected to its Mool within (Source, Jot Saroop) etc.

  • ਜਿਉ ਮੰਦਰ ਕਉ ਥਾਮੈ ਥੰਮਨੁ ॥ ਤਿਉ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਮਨਹਿ ਅਸਥੰਮਨੁ ॥: As a pillar supports a building, similarly, the Gur-Shabad is the mind’s support. (sggs 282).
  • ਸੋ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਾਚੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨ ਰਤਨੁ ਸਾਰੰ ॥੬॥: That mind is pure, which enshrines Truth within, and the most excellent Jewel of Wisdom dwells in that mind. ||6|| (sggs 505).

What is Spirituality?

Though spirituality is difficult to define, in a nutshell, it’s all about how a human conducts himself with all other beings in daily life — how we behave or live life while transacting with the outside word of objects, the field of emotions, and the realm of thoughts.

It brings about the best in a person, hence it is what a person can be, given the intense longing and commitment for Virtuous and honest living, Inner Growth, and Mool-abidance (Jot Saroop...).

In short, it is a Gurmukhs State of the Mind. It is an embellished mind (ਸੰਵਰੀ ਹੋਈ ਜਿੰਦਗੀ), committed mind unconcerned about shame of the worldly people (ਲੋਕ ਲਾਜ), a life of sacrifice, a life of Braveheart, a life of Virtues (ਗੁਣ), a life of Wisdom or Enlightenment, a life of Truth (Sach), a life of high spirit (ਚੜਦੀ ਕਲਾ), a life of knowing own self; a life free of falsehood, a life free of flattery (ਚਾਪਲੂਸੀ), a life free of ‘Parpanch’ or ‘Pakhand’ or imitation, a life free of false ego-sense (Haumai), a life free of sense-slavery, a life free of vices or Bikaar, a mind free of ‘Sootak‘ or impurity, and so on.

Once Enlightened (the Gurmukh-hood), one cannot help being what he/she is (i.e. Jot Saroop). Come worldly temptation or any danger, nothing can change that person’s nature from what it is (i.e. Jot Saroop). Throughout history of the world there have been such people (e.g., our Gurus, Bhagats …) who have set example for others through practical Spiritual Life they lived.

Nothing could push them, pull them or split them. They handled trying circumstances with composure and coolness. Their Spiritual eminence made it possible for them to retain the Vision of Pure Awareness at all times and yet relate to the ordinary world.

They live in the world but not of the world, They live in the midst of Maya, but detached. Theirs’s the authentic practical Spirituality! Difficult to define indeed! But, clearly, it represents the Essence or core of the human personality.

Religion and Spirituality

Religion was supposed to propagate genuine spirituality. But, sadly, world religions have been hijacked by their powerful self-serving clergy or Pujaaree systems. Consequently, over time the messages of great spiritual Masters true Gurus, and Prophets have been almost completely distorted or lost.

  • ਕਾਦੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੋਲਿ ਮਲੁ ਖਾਇ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੀਆ ਘਾਇ ॥ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਅੰਧੁ ॥ ਤੀਨੇ ਓਜਾੜੇ ਕਾ ਬੰਧੁ ॥੨॥: The clergy of the Muslim faith was corrupt, the Brahmin was murderous and the Yogi Un-Enlightened. These three (clergy) had become the root cause for the spiritual wreckage and desolation that mankind had come to endure. (sggs 662).

The Gurbani Teaches us that the Universal Dharma of Virtues is ONLY one.

However, man-made, organized and institutionalized religions (Mazhab) and their Pujaaree systems are many. Pujaaree (clergy) has programmed the minds of people through his concocted syllabus in such a way that people cannot think outside of the self-serving Pujaaree’s stale syllabus or outside of the Pujaaree drawn circle or boundaries.

Hence, the real spirituality begins where the man-made religion and the stale concocted concepts of its Pujaaree (clergy) ends — practical spirituality is non-sectarian.

It is not surprising to see many kids more spiritual and non-sectarian than adults. Their innocence and love is what makes them ‘spiritual.’ Consequently, they are more kind and caring to all beings. They don’t see color of skin or race etc. They don’t see dogmas or antagonistic adherents or structured rules and practices concocted by the self-serving Pujaaree (clergy). This all-encompassing behavior of them is natural and spontaneous. Because they just feel it in their bosom. However, to the contrary, the majority of them see their Sikh parents driven by worthless rituals, blind faith, illogical practices etc. They also see their parents never question these corrupt and anti-Gurmat practices of the self-serving Pujaaree that has closed people’s minds like a chick in an eggshell. When kids become grownups, like their parents, they also get accustomed to this sort of non-thinking spiritual way of life shaped by the corrupted practices of the self-serving Pujaaree and never question.

Proper understanding and Bibek Budhi (discriminating intellect) are needed to differentiate between religion and Spirituality. The following similes may help grasp the subtle nuances:

(1). Consider a tree with fruits. Religion is the finger pointing at the fruit (i.e., Spirituality) telling if we eat that fruit (Spirituality) we will gain Spiritual Realization (Mool-abidance). But Unfortunately, the majority of us (over 99.9 percent category) keep holding on the finger and just keep looking at the fruit (Spirituality) from a distance instead of eating it. What’s the result? We miss out Spirituality.

  • ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ ॥੨੦॥: (So long there is breathPraan) accomplish the task (of God Realization) yourself ( i.e. with self-efforts: Shabad-Vichaar …). ||20|| (sggs 474).
  • ਬਿਖੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ਉਪਾਏ ॥ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਬਿਰਖ ਕਉ ਦੁਇ ਫਲ ਲਾਏ ॥: Poison (-Maya, which brings spiritual death) and Amrit (-Naam, which gives spiritual life) are created by the Kartaar. These two fruits have been attached to the world-tree. (sggs 1172).
  • ਖੇਤਿ ਮਿਆਲਾ ਉਚੀਆ ਘਰੁ ਉਚਾ ਨਿਰਣਉ ॥ ਮਹਲ ਭਗਤੀ ਘਰਿ ਸਰੈ ਸਜਣ ਪਾਹੁਣਿਅਉ ॥ : (By applying self-efforts) raising the embankments of the mind’s field, I come to gaze at the lofty Divine mansion (realization of the Creator within). When the mind abides in Bhagti, the Creator is realized within by that person. (sggs 517).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੇ ਤੂ ਅਕਲਿ ਲਤੀਫੁ ਕਾਲੇ ਲਿਖੁ ਨ ਲੇਖ ॥ ਆਪਨੜੇ ਗਿਰੀਵਾਨ ਮਹਿ ਸਿਰੁ ਨੀਵਾਂ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖੁ ॥੬॥ : Fareed, if you consider yourself very intelligent and have a keen understanding, then why you keep pointing out faults, shortcomings of others (i.e. why do you keep judging others to be lesser than you?) Rather, you should look at your own actions, behavior, and deeds. ||6|| (sggs 1378).

(2). Next simile explains the difference between religion and Spirituality is that of the coconut. If we want to eat the flesh (Guddaa, kernel) of the coconut and drink the liquid from inside of it, then we need to open the outer shell (brown fiber) of the coconut and reach the inside — the Essence. If we keep holding on the outer hard shell and keep biting on it, then we will miss out the liquid and the kernel (Guddaa) inside — it’s Essence. If religion is compared to the outside of the coconut, Spirituality is then the inside of it (Guddaa or kernel): its Essence. In Spiritual ignorance, the majority of us mistake the inside for the outside! Just imagine, if one keeps chewing the husk and the outer skin of the coconut, he will only make his mouth bleed! Implication is that if we do not go beyond the body-consciousness, we will never taste our Original Nature (Jot Saroop).

  • ਘਰ ਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਭਰਪੂਰੁ ਹੈ ਮਨਮੁਖਾ ਸਾਦੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਕਸਤੂਰੀ ਮਿਰਗੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਭ੍ਰਮਦਾ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਇਆ ॥ : The Amrit of Naam is overflowing within every human being, but the Manmukh (Unenlightened being) does not realize it. Just as a deer does not recognize its own musk-scent (which is located within its own body), and wanders around deluded to find it outside. (sggs 644).

(3). Next simile includes surface of the ocean and pearls that lie beneath its surface. If religion is compared to the surface of the ocean, Spirituality is like pearls that lie hidden deep beneath the surface. Now, if we just stand at the bank and keep counting waves, we will never attain pearls. To get to pearls, we will have to jump into the water and dive deep in it, beneath the surface (as the swan or Hans). The bank is static and stagnant. Thus if we just stand at the bank, we will go nowhere: we will have no Inner Growth, no Inner Development or Transformation, and no change in vision.

  • ਹੰਸਾ ਹੀਰਾ ਮੋਤੀ ਚੁਗਣਾ ਬਗੁ ਡਡਾ ਭਾਲਣ ਜਾਵੈ ॥: The swans peck at the diamonds and pearls, while the crane chases after frogs. (sggs 960).
  • ਚਉਣੇ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਪਾਈਐ ਚੁਣਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਖਾਵੈ ਘਾਸੁ ॥: Though gold may be placed before a herd of cattle, but they will pick out the grass to eat (i.e. cattle have no appreciation for gold)! (sggs 143).

Spiritual quest

The SGGS reveals to us that we all have the capacity to abide in our Mool (Jot Saroop or Original Nature…) ‘Here and Now’.

As stated earlier, Gurbani or Gurmat Sikhi is a spirituality of the HERE and NOW (PRESENT), not of the afterlife or after death or not of the past or the future.

However we are reminded by the SGGS that only a ‘RARE‘ person develops the taste for genuine Sikhi spirituality of Here and Now. It is because we live nearly 100% of our livfe in the past and in the future. NOT IN THE PRESENT.

As a result, the Gurbani’s uses the term ‘RARE’ to indicate it is indeed a ‘RARE’ person who lives the Grmat Sikhi in the Here and Now (PRESENT).

The SGGS teaches us that both temporal and Spiritual Life can be led side by side successfully provided we shun the negative impact of Haumai and the resulting vices or Bikaar.

Thus the Gurbani’s approach is very practical, logical. In other words, the SGGS does not Teach us a theoretical or reactionary spirituality that would further bind us to Maya.

Instead, the SGGS teaches us Spirituality in action — practical Spirituality — and provides all that’s needed to resolve the mental entanglements that hinders us practicing Gurmat spirituality in the Present.

  • ਗਗਨ ਦਮਾਮਾ ਬਾਜਿਓ ਪਰਿਓ ਨੀਸਾਨੈ ਘਾਉ ॥ ਖੇਤੁ ਜੁ ਮਾਂਡਿਓ ਸੂਰਮਾ ਅਬ ਜੂਝਨ ਕੋ ਦਾਉ ॥੧॥ ਸੂਰਾ ਸੋ ਪਹਿਚਾਨੀਐ ਜੁ ਲਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਹੇਤ ॥ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਕਟਿ ਮਰੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੨॥੨॥: When the divine Wisdom Enlightened the mind like a battle-drum resounds in the sky, then a focus in life takes place (to fight with vices/Bikaar). The brave warrior (mind) jumps into the battlefield of life to fight against vices/Bikaar. ||1|| He alone is known as a spiritual hero, who fights (with vices/Bikaar…) for the sake of Dharma (i.e. righteousness, Virtues…). He may be cut into pieces (harmed in every way), but never deserts the battlefield (of his life — never gives up fighting against his own vices/Bikaar, and never gives up fighting against social evils such as injustice etc.). ||2||2|| (sggs 1105).

Of course we must be determined, committed, earnest, willing participants and put forward the best self-efforts (i.e. Shabad-Vichaar) to become Spiritually fit.

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

As to how a person can lead both worldly and Spiritual Life side by side successfully has been beautifully explained in the SGGS.

  • ਹਾਥ ਪਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਸਭੁ ਚੀਤੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੨੧੩॥: Do all the work using your hands and feet, and connect your mind with the ‘Niranjan‘ (Maya-free Rabb). ||213|| (sggs 1376).

In a nutshell, the crux of authentic Spirituality is the quest to know one’s ownself.

Hence a sure way to Spiritual Progress seems to be remaining detached even while leading an active family life in the world. True detachment is to live without duality — likes and dislikes (e.g. love and hate, friend and enemy, joy and sorrow etc.).

  • ਜਉ ਲਉ ਭਾਉ ਅਭਾਉ ਇਹੁ ਮਾਨੈ ਤਉ ਲਉ ਮਿਲਣੁ ਦੂਰਾਈ ॥: As long as a person mind believes in love for some and hate for others (i.e. likes and dislikes), such mind is far removed from uniting its Creator. (sggs 609).


  1. One can find the definition of spirituality in a Quote from SGGS ji as
    Prabh keejai Kirpa Nidhaan Hum Hari Gun Gaavai-Gey
    Jotee Joti Milaaye Joti Rul Jaavain-Gey
    SGGS ji.

  2. Sat Sri Akaal; I am very grateful for the Web in English….and the effort of Bhai T. Singh on teachig Gurbani.
    with respect yours humble servant.
    Sabbar Singh Khalsa.

  3. Sat Sri Akaal.
    blessing to you Bhai T.Singh Ji,for the teaching on your web page……(in English).
    I’am a Amritdhari Sikh,from Spain. but i do read English……70 years of age…….
    with respect your humble servant.
    Sabbar Singh Khalsa.

  4. Very beautifully written. T. Singh ji, is there any way I can contact you directly? I have some questions for you. If not I completely understand.


  5. Spirituality is the essence of all Religion. Oneness is the goal of the Spirituality…………………..Thats is what Guru Nanakji taught all of us…………..Very Nice Message Sir………..

  6. Great similes or analogies that bring out the real difference between religion and spirituality. Thank you.

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